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How life jacket helped SWFL surgeon improve recovery for breast cancer survivors

Dr. Lea Blackwell says post-surgical bra she developed brings positivity and comfort to people
Dr. Lea Blackwell
Posted at 9:50 PM, Mar 13, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-13 21:50:45-04

FORT MYERS, Fla. — It can be scary any time you go to the doctor. However, Dr. Lea Blackwell has a way of bringing comfort to people.

"She's been amazing," patient and breast cancer survivor Kathleen Nash said. "[Dr. Blackwell] is so calming and reassuring that everything's going to be O.K."

Blackwell is a breast surgical oncologist in Southwest Florida.

"She really made me feel comfortable," Nash said.

That feeling goes beyond her bedside manor.

"When I first started working here, I felt like it was important to put a bra on all my patients to help them recover from their surgery," Blackwell said.

However, she said patients kept complaining about the painful undergarments they'd have to wear after undergoing surgery. Blackwell wanted to find a way to lift up her patient's spirits while also making their recovery time more tolerable.

"They had Velcro for their front closure," she said. "Sometimes it was hard for the patients to put them on, and every patient complained about the bra after their surgery."

That's when a light bulb went off in her head. She got some inspiration from life jackets.

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"I started thinking about how bra closures were and I really needed something that was front closure because it's hard for people to put something on over their head after surgery."

Blackwell said some patent lawyers told her bras like this already excited. So, she took her bra design to the next level.

"I designed it so it would avoid that incision underneath the arm," she said. "I put mesh on the back so they're not so hot when people are wearing them for two weeks straight day and night."

Her bras also serve more than one purpose.

"I made them in bright colors so that they'd be colorful and a little bit easier for their recovery process in bright and fun colors. Patients would ask me what the pockets were for. I told them they can use it for an ice pack. Sometimes I tell them it's for their snacks."

Blackwell has garnered five patents over the past decade for her brainchild. Her bras can be used for people recovering from mastectomies, augmentation, and thoracic surgeries.

You can learn more about her products by visiting her website.